Waco area considers more efficient use of DARE officers
As the need to restructure the use of deputies increases in McLennan county, officials are looking at ending the DARE program.
The Drug Awareness Resistance Education program has already released one of the deputies involved with the program due to budget issues this past summer along with another deputy. In 2012 the county looked at cutting the program completely. Each county department’s salary budget was reduced by 4 percent, which amounted to $580,000 for the sheriff’s office.
Due to the newly implemented “rocket docket,” which is intended to help clear out inmates who have been awaiting trial for more than a year, an increase in security for the courthouse is needed. Rather than hire two more full time deputies, county commissioners are looking at other ways to take care of the increased security needs.
There are currently two deputies working the DARE program and commissioners have their eyes on pulling them to assist with the increased court cases which are scheduled to begin in January. Another deputy would be needed to work security at the records building.
County commissioner Kelly Snell remarked that “I’m sure DARE does a good job, but we’re not mandated to do that,” according to Waco Tribune-Herald. He added “we’ve got a shortage of patrol cars and guy on courthouse security with overtime. I think three extra people and three extra cars would solve a lot of the sheriff’s problems.”
Snell recommended asking the schools to cover the costs of the DARE program, however local schools have already set their budgets and likely will be unable to allocate any money for the program which spans 19 schools around the county.
DARE, a 12 week program taught to fifth graders which was established in 1984, is designed to educate and steer kids away from drug use. However statistics do not support the notion that the program is successful.
The Alcohol Abuse Prevention website states that the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t federal funds to be spent on the DARE program because it has proved to be ineffective.
“Scientific evaluation studies consistently have shown that DARE is ineffective in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs and is sometimes even counter-productive – worse than doing nothing,” the website states.
The program has been largely a vehicle for false information and propaganda, making children ill-equipped to make an informed decision about drugs. It has also served to turn children into pawns to be used against drug consuming parents who are otherwise upstanding people, most typically those who consume marijuana. Newly released polls show 58 percent of Texans support legalizing cannabis. Polls nationwide show roughly the same support.
A better use of any resources for drug awareness would instead teach the science and effects surrounding drugs in order to ensure children are more knowledgeable about substances both legal and illegal.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who has staked his claim to fame by being tough on drugs, has a different take on the matter, stating that he disagrees with national data and is against the elimination of the program. McNamara said his task forces are working hard to eliminate drug activity in the county and that he fully supports anything that would give the department an advantage.
McNamara stated that 90 percent of the people he arrests are associated with illegal drugs in some way. A large chunk of domestic violence cases have alcohol as a factor.
While meth labs are a danger to the community and combating drug-related violence should be a major priority for law enforcement, shifting focus away from non-violent drug users could be the key to ensuring the efficient use of resources and providing security at the courthouse. Prosecutors could also lessen their case-loads by offering better plea deals to non-violent drug offenders.
By: Stephen Carter
Contact Stephen via email at TXCann@gmail.com